"The very best way to overcome the stigma about self-publishing is to blow people out of the water with the quality of your book. That means a great story (fiction)/useful and practical information (nonfiction), professional editing and proofreading, professional interior and cover design...and a track record in the marketplace. Produce books that win awards and testimonials and great reviews!"
This message is one I've heard over and over from the old guard. They essentially say, "Quite whining about discrimination. Just focus on making your books the very best they can be and you'll do fine." If only that were true! It's such a lovely, idealistic way of looking at publishing. But it's not the way it actually works.
Selling books is much more complicated than just building a better mousetrap and waiting for people to beat a path to your door. And Shel Horowitz knows this. He even says on his website: " …an author or publisher releasing a book today has to work four times as hard to get noticed as authors and publishers did just sixteen years ago." He also says, "The book industry is rigged against ordinary folks, and 90 percent of books never sell more than 1000 copies." He knows self publishers and small publishers need help. That's why he writes how-to books about marketing and offers consulting to help book publishers market their books—which, by the way, I hear he's very good at.
In reality, when it comes to self publishing, the type of book probably affects sales more than the editing, layout and cover design. Nonfiction books fare much better than fiction. If you are an expert in an area and you write a useful how-to book passing on your knowledge, readers don't care all that much how the book looks. I can testify to that from personal experience selling our stress-management book, Stress? Find Your Balance, which looks great in its current 4th edition incarnation, but started out looking embarrassingly amateurish. Nevertheless we sold over 50,000 copies of that book before its current edition. Why? Because it contains useful information and we could sell it in bulk at a large discount to wellness centers and such.
But if you write a novel, it's a very different game. It can be a well-written, professionally designed, award-winning book, but few people will know about it if you can't get it reviewed by newspapers, displayed at conferences, and discussed by other media outlets. Again I draw on personal experience. My novel, Too Near The Edge, has gotten good reviews from online reviewers and on Amazon and it won an IPPY award. But my local paper won't consider it for review because it's self published. And, also because it's self published I can't have it in the book dealers' room at the Left Coast Crime conference, which is being held here this spring.
So we reformers don't agree with the old guard. We say, "Yes, our books need to be good, but it doesn't matter how good they are if prejudice against self publishing keeps us from getting the word out."